Technology is being integrated more with standard curriculum in the Fort Dodge Community School District.
"The way you engage kids in this century is through technology," Sue Wood, FDCSD director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said. "Anytime you have engaged students, you're going to have an increase in student achievement."
Sara Richardson, technology integrationist, is connecting students and their teachers with technology and new educational programs to enhance the learning process.
Every day, district students are using programs such as Moodle and Animoto and technology such as tablets for reading e-books in their studies.
Moodle is a free, online course management system used by high school students through Iowa Learning Online. Richardson describes it as a "controlled social networking" site.
"Right now, we have several classes that are starting using this program," she said. "They use it to ask a question and the students will type in their answers whether they're at home or at school. And then the students can interact with each other and type back and forth their comments. Teachers can do that, too."
As an educational tool, sites such as this are a benefit when preparing students for the 21st century, Richardson said. Many businesses now, for instance, use online training.
"It will help them get ready for their career and college work," she said. "I don't think anybody will go through college now without doing something at least partly online for their courses. The college will have nicer course management systems , but Moodle is the basic one for them to get started."
Animoto is a free, online video slideshow maker. Fort Dodge Senior High sociology students recently used the program to make public service announcements, Richardson said.
"They were studying things such as child abuse, child neglect, so they were creating public service announcements to tell people a message such as watch for child abuse or be aware of child abuse," she said. "We all had goosebumps when we were watching these."
Not only is it a fun program to use, Richardson said, but it is educational in terms of how to use media and online resources.
"We learned about copyright and how to make sure all of the images used were credited correctly," she said. "It was just a good learning experience."
This month, district schools will receive tablets, which will provide educational applications and programs and access to e-books.
Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency has several online databases anyone in Iowa's public education system can access, Richardson said. Through Mackin VIA, an online education resource, students can access a growing library of educational e-books.
"These e-books, the students can read just on regular computers or on tablets, any of that," she said. "We're starting to incorporate more iPads into the district, especially at the elementary level. Our online databases will be very beneficial and we'll use them a lot."
She added, "It's a good learning tool."
According to Richardson, technology bolsters the educational process.
"It's just amazing how technology engages students," she said. "Learning behaviors go down when they're engaged with technology. You can go into a classroom and see they're all on task, they're not trying to do something on the side, on their cell phones, because they're enjoying what they're doing."
Wood said further integrating technology into the curriculum is a positive step forward.
"I am very excited about all the technology integration that's going on in our school district," she said. "Kids today have grown up with technology and they don't know a world without that. We need to make sure they still have access to that in their educational day."
She added, "It very definitely bolsters the educational process."